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The Oral – Systemic Connection

6.7.16 in General

The Oral-Systemic Connection

I am about to embark on a 5-6 week long series of blogs, about health and disease that shows some connection between what we see in the oral cavity, and what happens in the rest of the body. Some of you may be aware that some connections of these two have been made. Some of you may never have heard anything about this. However, in order to really gain an understanding of this topic, I think we need to back up. Back up and look at how medicine, dentistry, and healthiness in general have been viewed.

Historically health care providers have familiarized themselves with what a normal healthy body looks and acts like. When a patient is seen with a problem that is not acting normal and healthy, we call it disease, categorize it as a diagnosis, and then formulate some treatment that hopes to have the end result being as close to normal as it was originally. Health care providers are taught to approach health care by coming up with answers to “What?” and “How?” For the most part, we are not taught to base our solutions on “why?” Thinking with a “why mindset” is a whole new process.

For instance, when someone suffers a “heart attack”, we have learned that it is because over time, an artery on the heart has been blocked, from the build up of a plaque. Once this blockage prevents adequate blood to get beyond it, the tissue beyond the blockage suffers from a lack of oxygen, and dies. This we know as a heart attack. We have figured out “what” has happened, and often we even know “how” it happens. The solution, given this information seems simple. If we can re-route the blood supply around the blockage, we can again assure nourishment to the heart muscle. We simply mechanically bypass the obstruction and provide a healthy flow of oxygen to the heart.

But this has not changed the disease process. If we do not address the “why” did this plaque form, we have not altered the disease, merely the consequences. Make no mistake; coronary artery bypass graft surgery has prolonged many lives with high quality however, shouldn’t we be searching for a prevention of the entire disease process? What are some of the reasons that we developed this blockage of the artery in the first place? Are there behaviors or events that we can avoid to prevent the disease? Where can we get clues about our systemic health?

As it turns out, we may get some early hints about our systemic health by the conditions in our mouth. This is certainly not the only place to look; however, it is this Oral-Systemic connection that we will study over the next few weeks. I urge you to change the way you think about health and disease. Do not ask yourself what we can do about a disease problem, rather, ask are there things we can do to eliminate the disease, or prevent it from ever happening?

So, stay tuned in, and keep smiling. Dr W.

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